Thousands seek counselling for child abuse

ALMOST 2,000 adults sought help from the first national counselling service for victims of child abuse.

Half of these were abused by family and one third experienced institutional abuse.

The inaugural report of the National Counselling Service, which has been seen by the Irish Examiner, pinpoints sexual abuse as the most common form of abuse.

The report found that:

54% suffered sexual abuse.

44% reported multiple abuse by multiple perpetrators including sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

Over 20% said they were experiencing multiple problems, including depression and anxiety.

5% cited suicidal thoughts or behaviour.

16% said they had relationship problems.

15% had physical health problems, including sleep and eating disorders and chronic pain.

6% reported sexual problems.

The majority of service users (43%) were aged between 36-50 and 36% were male, significantly higher than numbers generally reported for men seeking counselling services. The highest number of clients reporting abuse in institutions were located in Dublin and Cork.

Chairperson of the NCS working group, Pat Donnelly, said more than 3,000 calls were made to the service between September 2000, when the NCS came into operation, and September 2001, the period covered by the annual report.

A growing number are seeking counselling as a result of clerical sex abuse.

Christine Buckley, spokesperson for survivor’s group, the Aislinn Centre, said while the quality of the service was excellent, there were serious problems with delays in accessing counselling.

“The numbers of counsellors available are not by any stretch of the imagination meeting demand. We had a situation recently where a 73-year-old woman was waiting 13 months for counselling. That is simply not good enough.”

Ms Buckley said the delays were particularly damaging for those who would be attending the Laffoy inquiry into child abuse. “When cross-examination gets underway at Laffoy, people who didn’t have counselling are going to be in difficulty. They are going to have problems dealing with it emotionally.”

However, Mr Donnelly said the NCS is currently in talks with the Department of Health about expanding the service. He said the more people come forward about these crimes, the more services are needed.

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